Monday, May 21, 2012

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

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The first good reason for my finally reading Jane Eyre is the richer understanding lent to this webcomic (full props and credit to Hark! A Vagrant):

The second good reason is for getting over this stigma that Charlotte Brontë and other authors like her (see: Jane Austen) produce pure chick-lit. Yes, women seem to love this story type more than men do; honestly, I think this difference stems more from our manly prejudices than from any qualities inherent in the works.

Why shouldn't men like to read a good love story? Especially when that story is not mere mush and sentiment, but chock-a-block full of subversion, spooky attic noises, and near-death wanderings, its romance element nearly takes a backseat. (I say nearly, for Jane Eyre is a wholly different kind of story without the love interests.)

Actually, these romance stories--when well done!--are among the most intriguing. We know these two characters are perfect for each other; we know they ought to get together and get on with the down-and-dirty already; and we really really believe they will. How is it that the protagonists' inevitable pairing is stretched so thin that we demote it from knowledge to belief? How is it that, despite our knowing (or thinking we know) precisely how the story is going to end, in the generalities if not in the specifics, we keep reading, enthralled, our certainties tempered and our knowledge doubted?

Pulling off those questions is a remarkable enough feat for any storyteller. And readers, male and female alike, appreciate when an author does it well. We men, though we might not like to admit it, fall in love as often and as powerfully and as capably as our counterparts. We have the same doubts and anxieties about romance, and the same exultation and exuberance. So why should we not partake of the same literature with the same enthusiasm?

Give romance a shot, men. You couldn't start with a much better example than Jane Eyre.


  1. It's one of the best classic romances where the romance isn't shoved down the reader's throat.

    I personally enjoy that Jane doesn't take any shit, and that she strikes out when she feels that this isn't what she signed up for.

    All in all, one of my favorite books, and I think men would enjoy it. They just have to get over all the Austen they had to choke down in high school.

    1. You're spot-on, Kim. She doesn't take any grief, and she's incredibly strong-willed.

      (Personally, I think these characteristics are the reason other characters find her plain or ugly, too -- the visual interpretation of her unorthodox ways. I bet Jane's a hottie. At least Rochester thinks so, no matter what he says. And that's what matters in a romance, right?)